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An exceptional Wagner Der fliegende Holländer, so challenging that, at first, it seems shocking. But Kasper Holten's new production, currently at the Finnish National Opera, is also exceptionally intelligent. Holten connects Der fliegende Holländer to Der Meistersinger von Nürnberg and even to Parsifal by bringing out sub-texts on artistic creativity and metaphysics. And what amazing theatre this is, too, and very sensitive to the abstract cues in the music. .
A welcome addition to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s roster was its recent production of Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte.
800 years ago, every book was a precious treasure - ‘written on skin’. In George Benjamin’s and Martin Crimp’s 2012 opera, Written on Skin, modern-day archivists search for one such artefact: a legendary 12th-century illustrated vanity project, commissioned by an unnamed Protector to record and celebrate his power.
It was like a “Date Night” at Staatsoper unter den Linden with
its return of Eike Gramss’ 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama
Butterfly. While I entered the Schiller Theater, the many young couples
venturing to the opera together, and emerging afterwards all lovey-dovey and
moved by Puccini’s melodramatic romance, encouraged me to think more
positively about the future of opera.
For the Late Night concert after the Saturday series, fifteen Berliners
backed up Barbara Hannigan in yet another adventurous collaboration on a modern
rarity with Simon Rattle. I was completely unfamiliar with the French composer,
but the performance tonight made me fall in love with Gérard
Grisey’s sensually disintegrating soundscape Quatre chants pour
franchir le seuil, or “Fours Songs to cross the
One of the things I love about the Philharmonie in Berlin, is the normalcy
of musical excellence week after week. Very few venues can pull off with such
illuminating star wattage. Michael Schade, Anne Schwanewilms, and Barbara
Hannigan performed in two concerts with two larger-than-life conductors
Thielemann and Rattle. We were taken on three thrilling adventures.
Lyric Opera of Chicago’s original and superbly cast production of Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens has provided the musical public with a treasured opportunity to appreciate one of the great operatic achievements of the nineteenth century.
The Little Opera Company opened its 21st season by championing its own, as it presented the world premiere of Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel’s Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock.
In 2015, Bampton Classical Opera’s production of Salieri’s La grotta di Trofonio - a UK premiere - received well-deserved accolades: ‘a revelation ... the music is magnificent’ (Seen and Heard International), ‘giddily exciting, propelled by wit, charm and bags of joy’ (The Spectator), ‘lively, inventive ... a joy from start to finish’ (The Oxford Times), ‘They have done Salieri proud’ (The Arts Desk) and ‘an enthusiastic performance of riotously spirited music’ (Opera Britannia) were just some of the superlative compliments festooned by the critical press.
How many singers does it take to make an opera? There are single-role operas - Schönberg’s Erwartung (1924) and Eight Songs for a Mad King by Peter Maxwell Davies (1969) spring immediately to mind - and there are operas that just require a pair of performers, such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mozart i Salieri (1897) or The Telephone by Menotti (1947).
Now in its 31st year, the 2016 Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square has offered sixteen concerts performed by diverse ensembles, among them: the choirs of King’s College, London and Merton College, Oxford; Christchurch Cathedral Choir, Oxford; The Gesualdo Six; The Cardinall’s Musick; The Tallis Scholars; the choirs of Trinity College and Clare College, Cambridge; Tenebrae; Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightment.
As 2016 draws to a close, we stand on the cusp of a post-Europe, pre-Trump world. Perhaps we will look back on current times with the nostalgic romanticism of Richard Strauss’s 1911 paean to past glories, comforts and certainties: Der Rosenkavalier.
Ah, Loft Opera. It’s part of the experience to wander down many dark
streets, confused and lost, in a part of Brooklyn you’ve never been. It
is that exclusive—you can’t even find the
Let’s start by getting a couple of gripes out of the way. First, the
final act of Die Walküre does not constitute a full-length
concert, even with a distinguished cast and orchestra, and with animated
drawings fluttering on a giant screen.
When you combine two charismatic New York stage divas with the artistry of Los Angeles Opera, you have a mix that explodes into singing, dancing and an evening of superb entertainment.
Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.
A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic
concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.
Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the
composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who
has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman
composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.
The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.
For an opera that has never quite made it over the threshold into the ‘canonical’, the adolescent Mozart’s La finta giardiniera has not done badly of late for productions in the UK. In 2014, Glyndebourne presented Frederic Wake-Walker’s take on the eighteen-year-old’s dramma giocoso. Wake-Walker turned the romantic shenanigans and skirmishes into a debate on the nature of reality, in which the director tore off layers of theatrical artifice in order to answer Auden’s rhetorical question, ‘O tell me the truth about love’.
23 Aug 2009
The bravura performance by Ferruccio Furlanetto in the title role is spoiled by the kitschy and incoherent staging of this production. Mefistofele is unique among operas based on the Faust legend in that it rather closely adheres to Goethe’s version.
Indeed, the original, no longer extant,
version of this work was approximately six hours in length. Even in the
severely truncated revised version, Mefistofele has always proven
itself to be a serious work, with a libretto that (like Busoni’s
Doktor Faust) has some real literary merit. Unfortunately, following
the reigning spirit of Regieoper in Europe, director Miguel Del Monaco
and set designer Carlo Centolavigna have all but denuded this great opera of
its serious intent.
Opting for a 20th-century setting (which in and of itself is not a problem),
the “creative” team behind this production has missed the central
point of Boito’s (and by extension, Goethe’s) drama, namely, the
age-old Platonic opposition of the real and the ideal, in this case,
represented by the Margherita/Elena (Helen of Troy) duality. While the
ever-reliable Dimitra Theodossiou is afforded the opportunity to continue the
tradition of performing both roles, the intention behind this appears to be
economic rather than dramatic.
Act I is set in Frankfurt during Easter Sunday, but it is in the Germany of
the 1920s, not during Martin Luther’s time. This is at best a
questionable tactic because the seemingly peaceful interregnum of the Weimar
Republic had such terrible consequences in the following decades. Overloading
the already heavily-laden symbolism of the Faust legend with the tragedy of
modern German history helps to obscure Faust’s personal dilemma. Adding
to the incoherence of the staging, Del Monaco then proves not to have the
courage of his convictions by at least being consistent with the historical
implications of his staging of Act I, and sets Act IV, the Night of the
Classical Sabbath, in Las Vegas. Helen of Troy is reduced to being a showgirl
in a tawdry stage show and her attendant Nymphs reminded me of the June Taylor
Dancers who used to open the Jackie Gleason TV Show of the 1960s with overhead
shots featuring kaleidoscopic choreography.
The ultimate consequence of this staging of Mefistofele is that the
characters of Faust and Margherita/Elena are reduced to mere appendages of
Mefistofele’s mercurial personality. One of the problems with this opera
has always been the overshadowing of Faust and Margherita by Mefistofele. Del
Monaco’s staging has exacerbated tenfold this dramatic disparity.
The one saving grace of this production is Ferruccio Furlanetto’s
Mefistofele. His performance incorporates a spectacular bass voice with
animated acting. The acting, at times, may appear to be a bit over the top, but
it is forgivable given the imbecility of the staging. Indeed,
Furlanetto’s performance helps to divert attention away from the visual
and back to the musical, and for that we must be grateful.
To be charitable to the performers, I thought that the singers and orchestra
performed rather well, but at times it was difficult to gauge this accurately
since this DVD suffers from very poor balance. Even allowing for the recording
difficulties inherent in a live performance, there is really no excuse in this
day and age for a professionally recorded DVD to have such poor audio
This DVD will have appeal mostly to fans of Ferruccio Furlanetto. My advice
is to turn off the video and listen to the voice.
William E. Grim